Scam of the day – March 11, 2017 – Spring Break grandparent scam

Many colleges around the country are either on Spring Break or about to have their Spring Break.  The words Spring Break  often conjure up images of young college students on beaches rather than thoughts about their grandparents, but for scammers,  Spring Break and grandparents are a match made in heaven or perhaps hell.

Many of you are familiar with the grandparent scam where a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild who has gotten into some trouble, either a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical  problems in a far away place.  The caller pleads for the grandparent to wire some money immediately to help alleviate the problem.  However the caller also begs the grandparent not to tell mom and dad.  One would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this scam, but don’t be so hard on the victims of this scam.  Scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, have a knowledge of psychology of which Freud would have been envious and are able to use that knowledge to persuade their victims to send money right away.  With so many college students in warmer parts of the country or even on beaches outside of the country during Spring Break, it is a perfect time for scammers to put this scam to work.

TIPS

Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do.  Sometimes they get this information from perusing obituaries which may name grandchildren by name so merely because the correct name is used in the call is no reason to believe the call.  Don’t respond immediately to such a call without calling the real grandchild on his or her cell phone or call the parents and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.  If a medical problem is the ruse used, you can call the real hospital.  If legal problems are the ruse, you can call the real police.  You can also test the caller with a question that could be answered only by the real grandchild, but make sure that it really is a question that  only the real grandchild could answer and not just anyone who might read the real grandchild’ s Facebook page or other social media.  As I always say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”

Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam.  Once you have wired money, it is gone forever.  Also,  students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.

Scam of the day – April 27, 2016 – Friend’s emergency scam

The emergency email scam continues to snare unwary victims despite much discussion in the news of this type of scam.   It starts when you get an email describing a dire emergency that a friend or relative has encountered, generally in a foreign country, that requires the immediate wiring of funds to your friend or relative.  Sometimes the emergency relates to an arrest.  Other times it relates to a medical emergency, but it always is an urgent request for immediate funds to resolve the problem.  This scam is also done by communications on social media, such as Facebook, by text message or the telephone, such as in the infamous grandparent scam.

Often when the scam is done by email, it can appear that the email is really coming from your friend because your friend’s email account may have been hacked and used to send you the plea for help.

Here is a copy of such an email that was sent to me by the person receiving it.  It was initially sent through the hacked email of the purported friend in need in order to make it appear legitimate.

“Good Morning,

Sorry for any inconvenience, but I’m in a terrible situation. I came down here to France on vacation with my family after my birthday, last night on our way back to my hotel room we were robbed at gunpoint  all cash,credit cards and cell phones were stolen off me, leaving my passport and life safe. My luggage is still in custody of the hotel management pending when I make payment on outstanding bills I owe. I called my bank for a wire transfer but it has proven almost Impossible to operate my account from here as they made me understand international transactions take 7 working days to be effective which I can’t wait. I need you to help me with a loan to pay my hotel bills and get my self home. I’ll reimburse you as soon as I get back Home. I’ll appreciate whatever you can assist me with, let me know if you can help.

Thanks,
Bill”

TIPS

If you receive such a communication, you should immediately be skeptical, particularly if you are being contacted by an email, text message or social media.  If you have any concern that the communication might be legitimate, it is easy to contact the person on their cell phone to confirm that the communication you received was just a scam.  Anytime you are asked to wire money for any purpose, you should be particularly skeptical and very careful because once money is wired, it is impossible to recover if you find out you have been scammed.

If you are contacted and told by your friend that they do not have access to their cell phone, you should first try to contact them on their cell phone which will definitely prove to you that this is a scam.  Even if you cannot make contact with your real friend or relative through their cell phone, you can always call the police, embassy or hospital where they say they are in order to confirm that this is a scam.

Students and others traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.  Parents who have children traveling overseas, should also consider establishing a special code word to use in the event of the need for emergency communications to prove that the communication is legitimate.

Scam of the day – March 20, 2016 – Emergency email scam

The emergency email scam continues to snare unwary victims despite much discussion of this particular scam in the news.  It starts when you get an email describing a dire emergency that a friend or relative has encountered, generally in a foreign country, that requires the immediate wiring of funds to your friend or relative.  Sometimes the emergency relates to an arrest.  Other times it relates to a medical emergency, but it always is an urgent request for immediate funds to resolve the problem.  This scam is also done by communications on social media, such as Facebook, by text message or the telephone, such as in the infamous grandparent scam.

Often when the scam is done by email, it can appear that the email is really coming from your friend because your friend’s email account may have been hacked and used to send you the plea for help.

Here is a copy of such an email that I recently received.  I have taken out the name of the person who is appearing to send the email.

“Hoping this email reaches you well, I’m sorry for this emergency and for not informing you about my trip to Philippines but I just have to let you know my present predicament. Everything was fine until I was attacked on my way back to the hotel, I wasn’t hurt but I lost my money, bank cards, mobile phone and my bag in the course of this attack. I immediately contacted my bank in order to block my cards and also made a report at the nearest police station. I’ve been to the embassy and they are helping me with my documentation so i can fly out but I’m urgently in need of some money to pay for my hotel bills and my flight ticket home, will definitely REFUND as soon as back home .

Kindly let me know if you would be able to help me out so I can forward you the details required for a wire transfer.

Waiting to hear back from you…”

TIPS

If you receive such a communication, you should immediately be skeptical, particularly if you are being contacted by an email, text message or social media.  If you have any concern that the communication might be legitimate, it is easy to contact the person on their cell phone to confirm that the communication you received was just a scam.  Anytime you are asked to wire money for any purpose, you should be very careful because once money is wired, it is impossible to recover if you find out you have been scammed.

If you are contacted and told by your friend that they do not have access to their cell phone, you should first try to contact them on their cell phone which will definitely prove to you that this is a scam.  Even if you cannot make contact with your real friend or relative through their cell phone, you can always call the police, embassy or hospital where they say they are in order to confirm that this is a scam.

Students and others traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.  Parents who have children traveling overseas, should also consider establishing a special code word to use in the event of the need for emergency communications to prove that the communication is legitimate.

Scam of the day – December 10, 2013 – Grandparent scam, Christmas style

Over the past couple of years I have written more than eight times about variations of what has come to be known as the Grandparent scam although this scam is not limited to grandparents.  The scam starts with a phone call or email from a grandchild, other relative or friend who tells you that there has been some emergency and that he or she desperately needs you to wire money to him or her.  The emergencies range from medical emergencies, being a victim of a crime to being charged with a crime.  Scam artists are not called artists for nothing.  They are adept at psychology and may be armed with personal information that they gather on line, often from social media that will lead you to believe that you are communicating with a real family member or friend in need.  If you wire the money to the scam artist, it is gone forever.  It is impossible to get back money you have wired.  Christmas time is a big time for this scam as people may be traveling and the pleas may sound even more realistic at this time of year.

TIPS

Check out the archives of Scamicide using the search words “grandparent scam” for detailed tips for avoiding the grandparent scam.  First and foremost, however, whenever you are asked to wire money, you should immediately become skeptical. If a claim about a medical or legal emergency is made, contact the hospital or legal authorities in the area to confirm that the information is accurate.  Make sure that you have the cell phone numbers of anyone with whom your child or grandchild is traveling so you can confirm any calls claiming that an emergency has arisen.  Call the child directly on his or her cell phone to confirm the story.  Students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.

Scam of the day – March 5, 2012 – Spring Break Scams

Scammers exploit every opportunity and the upcoming college Spring Break vacation period is a tremendous opportunity to scam students and their parents.  Similar to the Grandparent scam which I have described in an earlier Scam of the Day, it often involves the parents or grandparents of a student who is away from home on vacation receiving a telephone call from a third party telling them that their child or grandchild has had a medical emergency or has been arrested and needs cash for emergency expenses, bail or a lawyer.  Generally, they advise that the cash be wired, which is always a cause of concern because once money has been wired, it is gone.  It is not like a credit card charge that can be put back on to your credit card if the charge is shown to be fraudulent.  Often the scammers get the names and telephone numbers of the vacationing students and their parents from the students’ cell phones which they may leave unattended on a beach, in a backpack or some other unsecure location.

TIP

Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam.  If a claim about a medical or legal emergency is made, contact the hospital or legal authorities in the area to confirm that the information is accurate.  Make sure that you have the cell phone numbers of anyone with whom your child or grandchild is traveling so you can confirm any calls claiming that an emergency has arisen.  Call the child directly on his or her cell phone to confirm the story.  Students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.